Gentleman Cyclist

June 9, 2018

Watlington weekend

Filed under: camping,Chilterns,Walking,YACF — admin @ 11:19 pm

It being the 50th birthday of that Stalwart of the Community Rich Forest, a number of us hied ourselves over to Watlington for the weekend. Rich is Events Organiser for the Association of Lightweight Campers as well as being a member of YACF, so it was a mixture of cyclists and campers, there being a considerable overlap between the two activities, who met at the White Mark Farm campsite in Watlington.

As part of my preparation for my Pembrokeshire walk, which is rapidly approaching, I decided to walk with a large, heavy rucksack from Saunderton station. This was exactly the sort of practice I needed as I was walking “against the grain”, as it were: up and down the escarpments rather than following contours. Although ascending is hard work with a heavy pack, it suddenly hits you as to why people ride bikes. When you are walking, descending is just as much tortuous hard work as is climbing: the footpath took me alongside the cricket pitch at Bledlow Ridge and immediately thereafter the descent is nigh-on precipitous. Steps had been cut into the soil with planks of wood holding them together so I found it rather easier to come down backwards and was very dependent on my walking poles. Compare that to coming down a hill on a bike.

Watlington really is Red Kite Central. There was a time when the red kite could only be seen in Wales, and there were very few pairs there, but some were introduced to the Chilterns and they have thrived. Indeed, they have become so bold that one of our number lost his burger in an air raid and required some minor first aid on his thumb. From my vantage point at the top of the camp site I can see the Scots pine where a pair is nesting, but there are many more than just the one pair. We also had a visitation from a buzzard this morning. There are plenty of other species, mostly evidenced by the ever-present peep-peep-peep-peep of a flock of long-tailed tits, and a song thrush, which seems to be the leading light in the dawn chorus.

Meanwhile, most of our number have gone for a ride. One of the younger members of our party asked me “Are you coming for a bike ride, mate?” I replied “No, I didn’t bring a bike.” His response of “Oh dear…” summed up the situation perfectly.

March 25, 2018

YACF Birthday Ride

Filed under: Cycling,YACF — admin @ 10:23 pm

The very excellent YACF (Yet Another Cycling Forum) is 10 years old today. To mark the occasion a small but select trio of riders who are all 10 years older than they were a decade ago met at Audley End station for an early spring potter.

Bob (aka Canardly), John (aka Wobbly John) and I (aka Wowbagger) set off at a sedate pace under an overcast sky around this route:-

We had a stop for coffee and a bacon butty in Thaxted at Parrishes café, which was very welcome after 9 or 10 coldish miles – there wasn’t any frost or ice, but it was just cold – and then we set off towards Great Bardfield and on to Finchingfield, where the serried ranks of all sorts of motorcyclists had gathered. The Garmin’s batteries conked out a mile or so before we got to Finchingfield and I had, in a senior moment, forgotten to pick up the spare pair that had been slow-cooking on the charger all night. Luckily the shop was open and I was able to buy some Duracells so that we could continue without too much guesswork.

Much to Bob’s disappointment we didn’t climb the 1:9 (or whatever it is) hill which is on the route of the Dunwich Dynamo but instead turned left towards Stambourne and then on to Steeple Bumpstead where we had lunch in the Fox pub. We each had a roast and a pint or two of a very tasty porter that was on offer.

This route involved a fair bit of climbing, and at one point I noticed that the Garmin recorded 380 feet above sea level. I’m never sure how accurate it is though as it sometimes gives ludicrous readings. That must have been a decent guess as the Ordnance Map give 123 metres at Castle Camps, which is 403 feet above sea level. This part of Essex is positively alpine. (Small vaguely-relevant fact: Debden, near Saffron Walden, is twinned with Tang Ting, Nepal).

We enjoyed a pretty good descent from Ashdon, but I stopped and retraced my pedal-strokes as I had noticed a large advertisement for a concert including Mozart’s C Minor Mass, which I will be singing in with the Southend Bach Choir on 21st April. The Saffron Walden Choral Society’s concert was last night.

We arrived back at the station at about 5pm and John caught his train to Ely and Bob and I drove in our various directions.

We didn’t see a great deal of notable wildlife: a number of buzzards; but there were two notable bits of roadkill in the form of a hedgehog and a polecat-style ferret. I can’t think that there are wild polecats living in Essex.

October 7, 2012

Solo ride to Little Dunmow

Filed under: Cycling,Essex,YACF — admin @ 12:10 pm

I set off at 8.30 and thereby used the “nasty” roads before the motorists were out of bed and into their football kit. I was aided and abetted by some flood water hanging around. This was the aptly-named Watery Lane.

The ford along Sporhams Lane was higher than I remember seeing it, and I used the footbridge.

It was a glorious sunny morning and Riffhams and its sheep looked very fine.

A view towards the city of Chelmsford. At this point I was engaged in conversation by three ladies out for a morning walk. It seemed that they had the ambition to cover many miles.

Great Graces was also in a fine fettle.

The Chelmer was very high, and flowed over both lock gates at Paper Mill Lock.

It’s unusual to find such foaming torrents on this normally placid river.

The Tea Room did not disappoint. That is fruit and chocolate flapjack – about 2000 calories’ worth. There were huge chunks of white chocolate nestling amongst glacé cherries… phwooaar!

There was an attractive shimmering rime over the ploughed fields – dew-bespangled spiders’ webs!

Easters – the 21st Century Tudor mansion in Barnston.

The trig point along Warren Road.

An excellent day out. Lunch, at the Flitch, in Little Dunmow, saw me eating alone in what was clearly a proper “local”. I’m sure everyone else was a regular, and there was a splendid conversation on the table to my left in which an old gaffer was holding forth about the evils of Thatcher and Blair, in a really fine Essex accent, of the type that’s all too rare these days. There will be a WARTY to this pub ere long.

A bit short of wildlife. There was a little egret at Stambridge Mills early on, a fox, and a weasel somewhere near Danbury. Oh, and a kestrel somewhere else. Significantly, I saw neither swallows nor house martins, in complete contrast to Thursday, when there were quite a few. I saw at least one green woodpecker, heard at least one more, and heard a greater spotted or two.

I arrived home a little before 6 p.m having completed 81 miles. I passed last year’s milage total at some stage during the day, and brought my weekly total up to about 185 miles. Still on target for a 7000 mile year…

May 14, 2012

Berlin to London

Filed under: Cycling,YACF — admin @ 9:21 pm

My good friend Helen, known as Auntie Helen to her on-line friends, has just completed an epic 700-mile solo ride from Berlin to London. Helen’s blog can be read here.

Yesterday was her final leg, from her home in Little Bromley, north of Colchester, via the new Personnel Recovery Unit at Colchester Barracks (Helen was raising money for the Help for Heroes charity) to Trafalgar Square. A number of other cyclists joined her for all, or some, of this route. We were not helped by the perennial uselessness of our rail companies, who were not offering a service to Colchester yesterday. I met another friend, Jane, at Shenfield station and together we rode out towards Helen. We shortly met Del, another of our cycling friends, who had a similar intention, and three of us headed north-east to an 11ses stop at Hanningfield Reservoir before a rendez-vous with Helen and two others in East Hanningfield. At this point Del peeled off whereas the five of us (Helen’s friends Mark and Martin were the other two) made for Ingatestone Garden Centre for lunch, where yet another of our friends, Jurek, was waiting for us.

From Ingatestone we six, led by Jurek, who was familiar with the route, rode into London via the not-especailly-attractive route of Shenfield, Brentwood, Harold Wood, Romford, Ilford, Stratford, Tower Hill and the Embankment, arriving in Trafalgar Square just before 6 p.m. Some members of Helen’s family were there, and a representative from Help for Heroes presented Helen with a certificate and medal.

I left them to it at around 6.15 and arrived in Lpoo St in time for the 6.45 train, alighting at Rochford so that the ride home should push my daily total above 63 miles, ensuring a “metric century” for the day.

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